"Yemaya, Orisha Mother of the Oceans," is the third of my series of orisha portraits. While she was based on a photograph, as were Oshun and Oya, she turned out looking nothing like the woman in that image.
Yemaya rose slowly out of the depths of the background. It took many layers and iterations for her to emerge in the visible range. Her gaze in unwavering and knowing. She is not looking into the future like Oya, or over her shoulder at some out-of-frame admirer. She is looking straight at us, straight into our eyes and our hearts. We sink into her and find ourselves in our deepest selves. From those depths, she calls to us - La Siren, she is named by some. We can dive down to explore those mysterious dark parts of our psyches, knowing that Yemaya holds us.
I am thinking about my visit with her this spring when I took white rose petals and white wine to the ocean as gifts to her. I am remembering a few years back when I gave her waves a heart-shaped piece of red wax one evening, only to find it a quarter-mile down on the beach the next morning. I am feeling her lift me up and drag me down as I swam in her waters this weekend.
I just finished a self-portrait as part of the Hamilton Art Collective's Art Resolve month. This painting has been sitting in the corner "in-progress" for about a year now. I started it in a class with Sheri Ponzi of Painting Herself Into Being, but other projects (ahem...chakra series...ahem) got in the way. This last year has been all about really stepping into my power and vocation as an artist consciously standing between the worlds and listening to the gods. So, finishing up a portrait of myself in that place just made sense now.
I've gotten a few questions from friends about the symbology of this image, so I thought I'd break it down here.
As a visionary artist, I stand at the crossroads and ask Eleggua to open the gates between the worlds so that the way may be open for the spirits to visit the studio. His is the first candle I light before painting in the studio. You can see him here at the base of my throat.
I also call upon the Miria, beloved of the Star Goddess and the dark expanse of space, to bless my work. Hers is the second candle I light at the beginning of each studio session. You can see her here just above my head.
The sky behind me is purple and I am surrounded by life and death. The visionary artist travels the 32nd path between this physical realm (Malkuth) and the astral realm (Yesod) -- also known as the path we travel at birth, death, and in our dreams. It is a place where magic happens. In my dominant hand, I hold my tool--the paintbrush--that I use to draw down energy from Yesod and channel it into Malkuth.
My non-dominant hand is raised in a traditional sign of blessing. My palms are energy centers that are very active during my work. I also have two nagas (serpent spirits) circling my wrists. I am beginning a relationship with the nagas as part of my work as a way to supercharge the spiritual energy that goes into the painting itself.
The meaning of the greenery is twofold. One is a reminder that my work is meant to be generative in this world. And Dionysos has reintroduced himself into my life. He gives me that extra push to go beyond my personal comfort zone to try new things and paint what I am being shown. His energy is that of life triumphant, so these two dovetail quite nicely.
If you are interested to see how this piece progressed from start to finish go to nineravens.tumblr.com.
Blessings from a strong and open heart.
Artist, writer, ritualist, dreamer, wanderer, seeker, observer -- of the seen and unseen worlds.